How This Barrier Method Could Help Stop a Hijacking

All a terrorist needs to hijack a plane is three seconds. As soon as the pilot opens the cockpit door, one could potentially just rush through to the controls. But it could just take a secondary barrier to add precious seconds and save lives.

Installed Physical Secondary Barriers, or IPSBs, have been touted by many in the airline industry as a vital defense against hijackers in the years since 9/11. While measures to ensure the security of the flight desk have been taken—requiring the cockpit door only be opened for physical needs or emergency repairs—some believe it isn't enough. The barriers, coupled with proper training for airline crews, could potentially save lives by making it harder for a hijacker to break through.

According to the Atlantic:

Secondary barriers, supporters say, would give crews more time — approximately five seconds — to react to threats. Prior to opening the cockpit door, flight crews would deploy the barrier, temporarily securing the space directly in front of the cockpit door.

And it works. Well enough for United Airlines to adopt the barriers voluntarily, and, according to a report by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, for Boeing and Airbus to offer them in some of the passenger planes in their next-gen fleet.

But there's plenty in the way of their widespread adoption. First, organizations like the FAA and IATA, short of dismissing them outright, see no need for them right now. Organizations like the TSA have already improved their screening processes enough to make the barriers superfluous. Right.

Perhaps most important, though, is the cost factor. At up to $10,000 a pop, a federal mandate remains out of sight largely due to cost. And they may even cost as much as $100,000 over the life of the plane.

But advocates for the method aren't giving up. The solution is a simple enough one that it's a wonder it hasn't been taken up already. It'll just take some time to convince airlines to take them up out of their own free will. [The Atlantic]